UVA. Basketball. Graduation. That is what you think of when you hear the name John Paul Jones Arena (JPJ). Many people who go there to attend games or events often buy things from the concessions stands, but many don’t know the effort workers put in to make the food.
I started working at JPJ my junior year and pretty much only worked there because I somehow thought that I would meet a UVA basketball player and get my picture taken with one of them.
For anyone reading this who is now wondering if I ever got that coveted picture with them, the answer is no. After a total of over 20 basketball games, the closest I got was the downstairs hot dog stand. Don’t get me wrong, the hot dog booth was fine and all, but not quite the same watching a game from an actual seat.
I worked two different kinds of booths; the hot dog and other typical concession booth food and the Domino’s/chicken tenders booth. When people asked me which I prefered working, I would tell them whichever food I am in the mood for eating at the end of the night. There are pros and cons to both.
Pros of the hot dog booth: There is cheese sauce, which is good on nacho chips or literally anything else. Food there is easy to make and self explanatory. Cons: women’s basketball games give out coupons for free small popcorn and small drink combo, which makes the booth super busy for the entire game. The basic rule is no breaks till the third or fourth quarter.
Pros of the Domino’s booth: They started selling Chick-Fil-A sandwiches and, even though we are not allowed to eat any, it’s just nice knowing we sell them. They also have french fries in the Domino’s booths, which make late night cleanups extra tasty. Cons: The prep space in the back is non-existent and sometimes the food runs out quickly and is slower to replace than hot dogs and popcorn.
Customers don’t realize that many people who work at JPJ are not trained professionals, and many of us work with groups who are trying to raise money for a specific reason: for me it was for choir expenses.
Last year there was an especially rude customer who accused me of putting my finger in the popcorn bowl of the customer in front of her. My finger was merely on the edge of the bowl, but this explanation didn’t seem to satisfy her. She told me that I needed to listen and learn from what she was telling me.
I just handed her her bottle of water and tried to give her her fifty cent coin (JPJ no longer gives out quarters and now only uses half dollars). As I was giving her her half dollar I missed her hand and she said “how mature”. She then took the label off the water bottle, threw it at me and walked away. I don’t think she ever came back to that hot dog booth, but after that I decided I needed to take a much needed stress reliever break and got an ice cream for my sorrows.
If customers realized that we are kids in high school they would be a lot friendlier and less likely to say “could you move any slower?”– the words of a nice lady that visited my pizza booth this year. I was moving as fast as I could with a line 20 people long and only six people working the booth, including cashiers, cooks, and runners.
Many people who want to see a concert but can’t get tickets often show signs of envy when they hear I am working the event. You really don’t get to see the events you work. Instead of showing the concert, the televisions in the booths show the different food options over and over again. The bonus is that you can sometimes hear the events depending on which booth and section of the stadium you work.
This year a major perk was added for workers. You get a free UVA t-shirt and hat for working an event. Before, they would give you a blue apron and orange UVA visor that you would wear for that night alone and return after you shift is over. That was never an ideal situation because the visors were getting very worn out from years of use.
The one thing that is extremely fun about working events at JPJ is people watching. Depending on the event, you can get some awesome crowds for people watching.
For basketball games, it is a mixture of older people with students with families who live in Charlottesville, so those games are pretty diverse.
For concerts a narrow group of people attend. When I worked the Jason Aldean concert, everyone was wearing ball caps, plaid shirts, cowboy boots, and jeans; none were interested in our hot dog booth. Most were at the “adult refreshment” booth. We probably got five customers the entire night, no joke.
Parking as a worker is horrendous. Workers have to park at Carruthers Hall, which is all the way in front of Ruby Tuesday. This year the buses that are supposed to come and pick us up and drop us off at JPJ didn’t seem to come.
Once it was 11 p.m. and my friend and I were trying to get back to the parking lot, the bus was not there. I forgot to mention that the bus stop at JPJ is not a bus stop, it’s a dimly lit curb where a bus stops. After knocking on security’s door, a half hour later, and inquiring about the bus, it finally showed up and we got to go home.
Overall I wouldn’t change working at JPJ. While there were things that frustrated me, I made a lot of great friends and I have stories I will never forget because of that arena.
So, for any Amark or John Paul Jones official workers out there reading this, I thank you for the ride and wish you the best of luck without me there..
For any UVA basketball players reading this, I also wish you the best of luck, but if you start losing next year you’ll know why (hint: because this girl isn’t cheering you on from behind the counter at one of the concession booths and thinking about how she isn’t gonna get a picture). But really, I am sure you guys will have a great season.